Canada 150 Epic Road Trip

作者:historifax

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(This post was called "Prep Day" and was moved from the 27th of June in order to line things up better on the blog)

Well the boys helped pick out snacks and lunches for the car on Sunday - and they cleaned up their toys in the house so I could vacuum and mop. Today is the day before - prep day. Making sure everything is in order: laundry, food, cat care, car tech, petrol, clothes, stuffies, and SatNav programmed with CFOne discounted Petro Canada stations en route. Hey - it's 10 cents off per litre at these places.

The boys will be home at 2000 hours tonight at which point the bedtime routine will be in effect. I'm anticipating a rough couple of mornings over the next few days adapting to the new morning routine of wake, PT, eat, and hit the road. They're not really morning people - unless there are video games to play...and that's going to be limited anyway. The earlier we're on the road, the earlier we can get off the road. I'd like time to enjoy each town, hotel, pool, or whatever we happen to find.

We've other games to play in the car and things to do...and staring out the window and thinking is, I think anyway, an important thing to do once in a while. Besides, there's so much to see along the way - at least in good sized doses as the scenery changes.

Laundry and final packing are the order of the day right now....and the prep continues.

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We departed on time at 0630 this morning but we were 10 minutes late for the reservation cutoff. Despite having a reservation for the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry, arriving at 1030 instead of 1020 means we lost our spot and went into the standby line.

Everything worked out fine, but I'm reminded of the Seinfeld episode where he rents a car and they haven't any left:

Jerry: I don't understand. Do you have my reservation?

Rental Car Agent: We have your reservation, we just ran out of cars.

Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That's why you have the reservation.

Rental Car Agent: I think I know why we have reservations.

Jerry: I don't think you do. You see, you know how to *take* the reservation, you just don't know how to *hold* the reservation. And that's really the most important part of the reservation: the holding. Anybody can just take them.

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This unremarkable piece of highway is actually an important landmark: mile 3,389 of the of Terry Fox's 5,300-mile Marathon of Hope. It was here where Terry Fox was forced to give up his run, as his body had unfortunately given up on him. Within sight of Thunder Bay, this lookout and memorial were completed and dedicated in 1982. We've stopped here to pay respect to a man the children whose courage they've come to know by way of the annual run at school. I'm not sure if many of their classmates have ever come here or will ever have the chance. Even I haven't until today - and in many respects, this place is as moving as some of those I've recently visited in France.

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On our way west from Thunder Bay, we stop to take a closer look at some of the features of the Canadian Shield - including Muskeg. This spot along Highway 17 near Finmark, Ontario has all three. The car is pulled over onto a steep shoulder so everyone and everything is clear of the road. We all get out of the car and climb the small hill nearby.

The rocks are completely covered in lichen that's almost three inches thick and very squishy. In steeper parts of the rock we can see where the lichen breaks down the rocky surface and finishes the job that is started when freezing water splits open the rock. It's warm to the touch, especially if you wiggle your fingers into the fungal structure - algae and cyanobacteria living symbiotically with various types of fungi.

These orange flowers grow all over the places we've driven past over the past day and a bit and up close, their stems seem almost poppy-like.

The kids stand next to a pine sapling with a prominent shield feature in the background and boggy muskeg below and in behind where they are.

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Jonathan, Samuel, and I take the easy way down. Matthew climbs down the little rocky mountain we were standing on. The angle of these sediment patterns is amazing and representative of the strata all along the highway. The geological forces required to push these layers nearly vertical is astounding and probably quite instant and violent...and the kids are amazed. Wonder what they'll make of the Rockies?

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Always have to stop in at Marway Militaria when in town to say hello to Jaime - and the store is such a brilliant collection of cool military collectables and surplus. Got me a WWII Brodie helmet with a service number and name...but also some enamel hippie anti-war paint that needs to come off.

Matthew introduces himself to Captain the dog while Jonathan tries on a flight-deck crewmember's helmet from a Canadian frigate.

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Jonathan won a free book back in the spring at the school book fair and chose one on the history of weaponry. He immediately identified this bayonet at the store and asked to see it. Jaime obliged and Jonathan learned the difference between presenting the weapon versus brandishing it.

He also learned the difference between a fencing sabre, a real sabre, a genuine sword, and a ceremonial sword. Given that he was allowed to handle the latter of that group, may as well show him how to salute with one. Jonathan tries his best to stand at attention and salute with the sword in his non-dominant hand.

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Whatever this stuff on Teletoon is, it's hardly "children's programming". After twenty minutes of hearing the banality of poorly drawn cartoons followed up with chants of, "let the cactus fart", it's time to shut it down and go to dinner. Besides, Kyle, Krissy, Dom, and Silver are coming for a visit and so the kids can play in the pool and the playplace downstairs. Time to go.

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This morning, we're visiting Fort Whyte Centre - now called Fort Whyte Alive - with Cheryl, her husband Graham, and their two kids Elizabeth and Grayson. As we arrive, the kids notice the prairie dog town that's next to the parking lot. We're a few minutes early and there are at least a dozen prairie dogs wandering around their mound, so we go take a closer look.

Jonathan has the yellow camera and strides into the thick of things to get as close as he can. The prairie dogs see him from a ways back and take cover underground.

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Samuel and Grayson explore the outside of a sod house - the kind that would have been made by early settlers on the prairies.

We all went up to the treehouse - but most of the photos are on the other two cameras and I'll add them later. Here we are walking down the steps and back to the path.

"What kind of wagon is this?", the kids ask..."why, it's a prairie kabuki cab." ... "oh...they'd pull people across the prairies in those - just one person pulling along?" ... "yeah sure. Why not".

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There is a heard of bison at Fort Whyte and it was nice to get a chance to see the provincial animal of Manitoba kind-of up close...especially after talking about what happened to them in the wild when the railway came through in the 1880s only the day before.

We head over to the treehouse and get a chance to see the heard once more from a different vantage point.

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Lunch at Smitty's includes a lesson on short stacks, silver dollar pancakes, and that these things often come with either a dollop of butter a ball of whipped cream, or both. After a hearty and unwelcome, "ewww" from all three of the kids, the offending dairy products are scraped away and the meal resumes. "At least", Samuel adds helpfully, "we know what to ask not to have when we order next time."

Lunch was actually around noon, not the time listed in the blog. Bonjournal only lets one post on half-hour intervals. After lunch, the kids slept for almost two hours back at the hotel.

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Cheryl and Graham's place is perfectly situated in a really nice St. James neighbourhood, but also for the airplane lover, close enough to watch the planes on short final arrive at YWG. There is a really nice playground adjacent to their property near the end of runway 31 that all of the kids enjoyed playing on. Graham was telling me about the many paved trails they've added to the city park areas throughout town in the last fifteen years. They look great for rollerblading! Wish they'd have been around when I was here!

Jonathan and Samuel also met a genuine bully for the first time - the sort of kind that we'd encounter when I was a kid or the ones you'd see in older story books. The kind of kid that knows only aggression as a form of communication but at the same time, races over to his mom when someone stands up to him. At every single hotel we've stopped at, the boys, though Jonathan in particular, have found someone around their own age to exchange names with and just play. It's a direct reflection of their world experience because even at their school, the sort of kids they encounter at the park here just aren't in the picture.

These two blokes are a few years older than Jonathan and Samuel, maybe around 11 or 12...and as we walk up to the park I watched them eying and sizing up each of the kids in our group. Before long, being who they are, Jonathan and about five minutes later, Samuel independently try to engage these kids in a conversation to play or have a turn on a particular piece of equipment. Both times, my older sons are derided and rebuffed and calmly walked away, coming over to report what happened. Samuel was floored that someone he had never met would call him a, "dick". Welcome to Winnipeg.

After twenty minutes, the two moms of these two boys come over to tell them it's time to go. Not surprisingly, they both throw a tantrum in public, which yields every piece of key information about these two kids and how lousy their mother's parenting is. It's pretty clear who is running the show in those houses and not much of a surprise, either. As we watch the kids play, Cheryl, Graham, and I comment to one another about the goings on and what we've just seen. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Samuel found another pair of kids, this time a boy and a girl about their age, and they're all playing with those kids' dogs. One is a husky-wolf cross and it has two eyes the same colour. The boy they're playing with has green hair, and Jonathan thinks that's really cool. Eventually, it's time for us to go as well, and all five kids are rounded up and we walk back down the path and cross over to the back-alley to Cheryl and Graham's house. Back alleys are another Winnipeg thing.

The idea for ending the night was the fireworks display at Assiniboine Park, but even with the long afternoon nap, everyone is completely spent. The flat geography around Winnipeg and the time of year make for a very late sunset and the fireworks aren't scheduled until 2245. Grayson is about to crash, Elizabeth is tired, and my three probably won't make it either. After saying goodbye, we head to the hotel with the intention of watching them from the hotel window...but they're all asleep before 2215.

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"54 miles to Portage...it's a long tramp!" The corner or Portage and Aldine. I remember this painting on the wall of this building as far back as 1982 when we used to live here. The little sign next to it says that it was originally painted in the 1920s and restored in 1994.

Of course, "tramp" has a very different meaning these days, but before the current connotation, this sign was a bit of a pun and a double entendre - it has two different meanings:

The first refers to a person that travels from place to place on foot in search of work. The second meaning refers to a long walk, typically a very tiring one. So...a 54-mile walk to Portage la Prairie is a long, tiring, hard walk for someone looking for work or another place to go. But there's also a more direct specific reason this mural was painted.

This building used to house an Apothecary - someone who made and mixed medication in the days before we had pharmacies. It was also one of the last structures on this side of Winnipeg in the 1920s. The druggist who ran the apothecary was a man named Carman Ruttan, and he had the mural painted on the wall because the next apothecary on the road was exactly 54 miles away in Portage. The original mural was painted by a man named Leslie Charles Smith.

This mural isn't the original - it's been redone a few times as different owners have had the building and various businesses within. The original version is shown below. Ruttan eventually moved his apothecary and leased the building out to a man named Jack Andrews, who operated a more modern pharmacy. Andrews repainted the tramp and an argument ensued between him and Ruttan. Ruttan claimed that Andrews owed him royalties because the tramp was bringing him customers and as such, was "working" for Andrews. Andrews replied that he was already paying rent to Ruttan and that his painting brought the tramp back to life. Long story short, Andrews moved out and Ruttan moved back in, working here until his death in 1973.

A tax preparation office ended up owning the building next, and they not only donated anything of historic value inside the building to to the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, but also repainted the faded tramp once more in 1977. It is this iteration that remains and was restored in 1994. The Winnipeg Free Press even did an article about it on 5 October 1994 that generated a lot of correspondence from city residents and helped uncover the name of the original artist.

At any rate, the tramp has "walked" for longer than any one person has owned this building...and hopefully, he'll be pondering that tramp to Portage for a long time to come.

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Winnipeg classic...that unaccountably has an Australian mascot ;) Makes sense though, because Domo is almost always full-service. To this day, the attendants in their red coveralls still pump the gas, check the oil, and wash the front and back windows. They "jump to the pump", as it were...and they don't charge an extra few cents per litre for the service either.

Domo originated from the former Dominion Motors car dealership, which was located at Fort and Graham in downtown Winnipeg and sold vehicles under the Ford banner. Dominion Motors, was owned by the Everetts - still a very wealthy Winnipeg family - and they had the idea to operate a gas station company called Dominion Gas. Problem was, that such a name was in conflict with the grocery store chain at the time called Dominion. So they shortened it to DO-MO for DOminion MOtors, and DOMO was born. It's not the Japanese adverb "domo" used to express gratitude or regret.

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We take a small detour in the town of Headingly, just west of Winnipeg on Highway 1. We're going to the Diamond. It's a middle-of-nowhere sort of place that doesn't have anything of note beyond spot where the twinned-track CN main line is crossed by the CP's Glenboro Subdivision, a branchline that runs west to Souris, MB. In high school, this was the place where Patrick, Kyle, and me would come to sit, talk, discuss things. Aside from the occasional train or passing car whose noise would break up the stillness and the song of grasshoppers passing messages to one another in the fields, this place is calm and quiet. Today, though, there's a CP track crew here waiting for clearance across the CN main, and they don't seem to want anyone around. Besides, we have places to go and I took a nice picture here last year. Instead, I take a photo of the old swing bridge that carries the CP line across the Assiniboine River a few miles to the north back in the town of Headingly.

At Portage la Prairie, it's another code yellow...so we stop at the Tim Hortons to solve that problem and caffeinate the driver. Another small detour over to the tracks and I'm awash in memories. When I was the same age as Samuel and Jonathan, and their Uncle Stu was about Matthew's age, my father would bring us here to watch trains. It was a lot busier in those days...The Canadian was a daily train in both directions, the Super Continental ran west to the coast out of Winnipeg each morning, plus the northern train to Churchill, MB would usually be arriving before breakfast. Then all the freight traffic. Both the CN and CP lines are a stone's throw from one another here. But what gets the kids laughing and makes this stop worthwhile is the story about the time Stu and I threw up everywhere, ruining the train watching trip for my father.

In 1984, VIA was testing out some bi-level passenger cars loaned to them by Amtrak. The idea was that VIA would perhaps purchase them to replace the old stainless-steel and blue-and-yellow equipment in their fleet. Somehow, Dad caught wind of this test train and was committed to coming to Portage at all costs to see it. Well, we saw it, and the cost was paid in two very sick, barfy children that painted the back of the old Toyota Cressida in a wave of vomit. He got the picture though...and twenty years later, it was published in my VIA book and captioned with an allusion to the smelly events that day.

Both the CN and CP stations still stand here...the former still hosts the thrice-weekly Canadian and the latter is a museum.

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The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan museum in Brandon, MB - which has dropped the "British" part for some reason - so it's no longer the BCATP museum, but the CATP museum. Pilots and aircrew won't see this acronym as C-A-T-P, but instead, CAT-P...and will pronounce it, "Cat Pee". That's because there are a lot of aviation-related acronyms that include, "CAT", which is usually short for, "category". Plus, our eyes are drawn to words within acronyms if the acronym itself cannot be pronounced. So, for better or for worse, this is now the Cat Pee museum...probably worse, because all the planes are yellow. That's just an unfortunate coincidence - yellow was used for its high-visibility characteristics.

Still, this is a brilliant spot that has come a long way in 20 years. Most of what's here was scrap parts the first time I visited and today, much of it is airworthy. Like many museums we visit and see, this is a, "museum of stuff" ... interpretation is a huge challenge for any museum and it helps to have someone who knows what's what along to do that for you.

The boys enjoy the little deHavilland Tiger Moth pedal plane around the restored WWII hangar. Matthew fit best inside of it and roared around for a good twenty minutes. The tailwheel is steered by a control column similar to a stick in a real plane.

Some of the aircraft here allow people inside. A Cessna Crane, with its wings removed, has a cockpit we can climb into. The back is open and all of the cables that connect the flight column with the control surfaces work. The kids can pull the yoke back and forth to make the elevators go up and down. Pushing the rudder pedals also makes the rudder swing back and forth. The kids watch the cables pull and move as they test everything out by taking turns in the pilot's seat and looking aft inside the plane, or sticking their heads out the open door to look back.

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There's nothing wrong with the nose of this airplane - it's not squished, dented, or broken. It's actually meant to be shaped this way to allow increased forward visibility for the pilot and more room for the bombardier. This funny looking airplane is called a Bristol-Fairchild Bolingbroke, Mk. IV. This type was used extensively with the BCATP in bombing and gunnery training between 1940-1945 at several locations all across Canada.

The design was based on the mid-1930s twin-engined Bristol Blenheim bomber. 626 Bolingbrokes were built, 457 of which were of the Mk. IV training variant. The remainder served as light bombers or maritime patrol aircraft during and after the Second World War.

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Bombardiers would train in the nose of the Bolingbroke - the gunners would train in the back using a dorsal turret. This aircraft has one on it already and a second one has been restored and placed here in order to see how large they actually were. Great view...but it would be terrifying when facing the real deal over Europe.

This old hangar is made almost entirely of wood. It's easy to see the construction style in the larger areas where the planes are kept. The back rooms where offices used to be are equally interesting, particularly since any parging, drywall, or plaster has been completely removed. I can recall several times where old military hangers were "condemned" and destined to be torn down. One such example was at the old base in Rockliffe in Ottawa, just across the parkway from the National Aviation Museum. They tried to push them over with bulldozers, then tried a wrecking ball. Even with big pieces torn out, the mighty structures remained upright despite everything modern construction machinery could bring to bear. Eventually, they were cut up piece by piece and removed, piece by piece. They're a lot stronger than they look and, for a demolition company, not a job to take lightly.

This firefighting suit has the word "cancer" written all over it. It's a shame that asbestos - the miracle fiber - causes such harm to humans as it's virtually fireproof. But before asbestosis and its causes were understood, the product was used virtually everywhere because of it's amazing properties to withstand and reflect heat and fire.

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Every airport has firefighting equipment, for obvious reasons. Today, these vehicles are almost always painted a sort of lime-yellow with a special paint that contains glass powder to reflect light and increase visibility. This first truck is painted in a similar scheme but for different reasons. Yellow wasn't the standard for airport vehicles yet - except if they carried fuel. This is called a fuel tender, or "bowser" in pilot jargon. It's a regular 1940 Ford truck chassis with a 500 imperial gallon tank on the back. The things that look like cannons on the top are two 20' fuel booms each with 100 feet of hose.

The red vehicle is a crash tender with some firefighting equipment on board. Like the bowser, it's a regular truck - in this case a 1942 Ford - with accessories added to the back including a 300 imp. gal. water tank, four cylinders of compressed carbon-dioxide gas, two pike poles, and two asbestos fire suits.

The little blue jeep is an all-around workhorse, or general purpose vehicle, as jeeps often were during the war.

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So there's all this stuff here...upstairs with the small parts, uniforms, and personal effects of the people who once flew here, and all these mostly-yellow airplanes in the hangar. So what? What was the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan anyway? Well, if we look at Canada and its political leadership in the years leading up to the war, the BCATP was the vision of then-Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. In the late 1930s, he was completely taken in by Hitler's charisma. King's own diary entries show us that he didn't think war would be a possibility and that Hitler's annexation of other countries would cease. In any event, it wasn't something Canada would get involved in like the First World War. But if war did happen, then Canada's contribution would be to provide pilot and aircrew training for any and all Commonwealth nations that went to war.

Things, of course, turned out very differently than Mackenzie King hoped they would. Canada declared war on Nazi Germany on 10 September 1939 and began to mobilize its air, land, and sea forces almost from scratch like we had done in 1914. We went on to commit a great deal more than just pilot training, but that aspect of our contribution was immense. Half the pilots, navigators, bombardiers, air gunners, wireless operators (radio operators), and flight engineers who served with the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) during the war trained in Canada. Trainees also included men from other non-Commonwealth Allied nations, such as Argentina, Belgium, Ceylon, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, Fiji, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and even the United States.

In all, 131,533 Allied pilots and aircrew were trained in Canada, 72,835 of which were Canadian. By 1943, the BCATP programme required some 100,000 administrative personnel at 107 schools and 184 supporting units at 231 locations all across Canada.

Flight training for pilots was done on deHavilland Tiger Moth-type aircraft. From there, they would graduate to the North American Harvard, such as the one pictured here. This is a Mk. II model and would have been used for advanced flight training in addition to other uses, such as training wireless operators and navigators.

Pilots selected for fighter aircraft would then graduate to airplanes such as the Hawker Hurricane. A Mk. XII model is shown here at the museum in Brandon. This particular plane is almost all hand-made and its fuselage is a combination of several aircraft. The Mk. XII was a Canadian variant, built by the Canadian Car and Foundry company of Montreal at its various factories throughout the country. Although the overall shape is the same as the Mk. I Hurricanes that fought in the Battle of Britain, the Mk. XII has some noticeable differences. The most obvious ones are the lack of a fairing to cover the propeller hub and the pleated wingtips. Not so obvious is the more powerful Packard Merlin Mk. 29 engine that cranks out an incredible 1,300 hp.

Pilots selected for bomber aircraft would graduate to larger aircraft like the Bolingbroke or Avro Anson. This is the flight deck of an Anson, a twin-engined aircraft used for training both pilots and navigators. This particular aircraft is a Mk. V model and, unlike bombers and fighters, this type of plane was used after the war in civilian freight and passenger service all around the world.

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We go into the workshop where each of the airplanes on display in the hangar were restored. Next to the rope barrier are two near-identically shaped wings...one green with primer, the other aluminum with holes. These are warplanes - whether they're used for training or not is irrelevant - so Jonathan asks the obvious question...what caused these holes? Funny enough, the answer isn't far removed from his suspicion and the difference is the context in which these holes were made. They were indeed made by gunfire, just not enemy gun fire. Almost as soon as the war ended, the Government of Canada had an incredible amount of surplus military hardware. Almost overnight, items such as uniforms, weapons, ships, trucks, tanks, airplanes, rations - all of it - no longer had a use. Whatever could be repurposed and sold was sold. The rest, scrapped or trashed.

Many prairie farmers purchased airplanes at dirt-cheap prices for the fuel they contained and some of the parts. For many years it was not at all uncommon to see the frame of several airplanes on a farmer's property somewhere. I remember driving toward Dauphin, Manitoba on a road trip as a child and counting no fewer than a dozen disused airframes, some of them sitting within yards of someone's house. In almost every case, whatever metal sheeting was left on the plane was yellow - a clear indication that that particular plane was once used for training aircrew in the BCATP.

All manner of things can happen to an airplane sitting in a wood or a farmer's back lot in the span of 70 years. Target practice is definitely on the list. My guess is that, wherever this aluminum wing once was, someone with a rifle or shotgun knew enough to know what they had in their yard and were curious to see what would happen if they shot at the metal wing, likely trying to reproduce something they'd heard from a grandparent or seen in a war movie. Their curiosity would have been quickly satiated, as the lead slug from their bullet(s) pierced the metal skin of the wing to form the patterns we see in front of us here. I'm also willing to bet that after the first shot went through, whoever had the firearm was pleasingly surprised at what had happened, enough to keep shooting until almost every open space between the internal wing spars was punched through with a hole or two.

Outside the museum is a large stone arc - it's a memorial to those who died in training while in Canada as part of the BCATP. The success of training huge numbers of people came at a huge cost. This 300' long black granite wall contains the names of over 19,000 young men and women who perished in training accidents between 1939-1945. It's difficult to get the entire memorial in a photo frame without standing really far back, and as a result, it's hard to make it out in the picture below.

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The hangar and the second building in the next trio of photos are original wartime structures. The rest are faithful reproductions. They're used to host various events through which the museum can generate publicity and money to keep things going. They also help to give a rough idea of what the area away from the flight line may have looked like here during the war.

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There aren't many grain elevators like this left on the prairies. The former Manitoba Pool Elkhorn B elevator is on borrowed time. The siding that once served this farming hub has been torn up within the last few years and there's no evidence that it's been repurposed as a trucking elevator. This galvanized steel covered prairie skyscraper may not be here the next time and of us pass through, so we stopped to take a look at a vanishing fixture on the prairie landscape.

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As the kids walk along the ties of the siding, I look around for evidence of the work that was done here. A pile of grain near the loading chute - an old Canadian Wheat Board guide that has samples looks mostly like No. 1 Canada Western Spring Wheat - surprisingly isn't wet and moldy. Maybe it's in a relatively dry spot.

This capstan would have been used to pull the strings of grain cars along to place empties in front of the chute.

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With the removal of the siding, there is a lot of scrap bits of track lying around. The kids search for "treasures" that consists of interesting pieces of ballast, spikes, and track bolts. Matthew holds up his collection for the camera.

This fishplate provides an approximate age for the track that once serviced the grain elevators in Elkhorn and was rebuilt between 1924 and 1926.

The siding was laid in 1886 to serve a flat grain transfer structure and the first elevator, the Manitoba Pool C, was constructed in 1892. It was joined by a second elevator that was moved here in the 1920s and named the Elkhorn A. The remaining structure, the Elkhorn B, was built in 1965.

The ever important no smoking sign gives insight to an ever present danger around grain dust - explosion. Grain elevators were and are dangerous places to work.

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Samuel and Matthew show each other their discoveries and I get a chance to get a better shot of the elevator facing east. The round outline of the old Manitoba Pool shield is still slightly visible above the green lettering on the southern side, but none of my shots were able to get a good shot of it. Didn't want to linger too close to the main line with the kids - they've learned to stay clear of a main since they were small and the hotshot intermodal freights that race through here go very fast indeed.

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Back home, the kids waterslide experience at the waterparks in Niagara Falls and their use is governed by height. Here on the prairies, with most hotels having slides of their own and no lifeguard, we can let Matthew try even though he's still too short by Americana Waterpark standards. Here's his first run through, followed by Samuel and Jonathan.

His next run through, Matthew went backwards with his feet tucked in, because no-one told him he couldn't do that. He whipped around the last turn so bloody fast he skipped along the water on his ass before the drag effect took over to submerge him.

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The slide was a hit...literally. Just prior to one of my turns on the slide, I looked down to see if anyone was in the way. There didn't appear to be, and so I went. The slide was incredibly fast. Very, very fast. And when I came around the bottom curve into the open light of the pool, Samuel was standing right there and there was no way to either slow down or stop. My right knee connected with the back of his head, making a sickening, "thupp". In the flash of a moment between the dryness of the slide and my body being enveloped by pool water, which mercifully absorbed all of my momentum, I knew he was hurt. So was I. Thank goodness he could touch the bottom and even more so, thank goodness he didn't see it coming.

There's something about a body-blow that, if it's anticipated, somehow makes things worse because all of one's muscles tense up to receive the impact. Samuel was looking away and was taken unawares. That probably helped. I carried him out of the pool, crying, and we sat on the deck for about ten minutes while the attendant got us a towel and some ice. I've not been in a pool/waterslide where the slide itself empties into the same body of water people are playing in - and I ought to have been more careful. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt and didn't even get a bump on the head...just really shaken up as a result. He got back on the horse, so to speak, and was back down the slide a little while later. We also implemented new rules for slides - especially ones like this - where one of us stands at the bottom to let the others know it's safe to go.

To add to this entry, after the fact, we did indeed come across several more slides like this during the trip. The silver lining of this collision is that we all - all four of us - were extra careful before going down the slide. Usually, I'd stand at the bottom and give a thumbs up or an, "OKAY" before the next kid went. The boys were able to lead by example this way and when we encountered busier pools with slides, other people's kids would follow what Jonathan, Samuel, and Matthew were doing. As a result, nothing like this happened again. There were even two places where the "child" (usually about 13 or so) would come down and their mass would carry them right across the pool into the shallow end. Because of the waterslide collision in Regina between me and Samuel, the boys even took notice of these sorts of things, and would clear right out of the way for the entire pool length when someone taller and larger was coming down.

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This small display at the entrance of the Western Development Museum in Moose Jaw, SK is super apt seeing as I was living on the prairies 30 years ago. My childhood in a case.

The museum also has a wonderful display of bush planes and BCATP aircraft - like this carefully restored Avro Anson that took 13 years from finding it in a farmer's field to the finished product. They also have a complete Link Trainer.

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G2u Pacific No. 2634 doesn't look 105 years old thanks to the climate controlled environment inside the WD Museum. The Canadian Pacific locomotive is a fine example of early steam that was rebuilt for extended use into the superheated steam era.

The cab is intact with all gauges and valves - a far cry from the locomotives at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa that were robbed of their parts not long after being put on display.

Matthew sits in the engineer's seat - though he prefers the British nomenclature of the Thomas the Tank Engine world and calls it the, "driver's side". He keeps a steady hand on the brake and tries out the Johnson bar that allows steam to flow to the cylinders and throttle up the engine, but his little hands aren't quite strong enough to squeeze the handle.

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There's a great gallery and display about the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron here, which is appropriate as they're based here at 15 Wing Moose Jaw. Better known as the Snowbirds, this component of the RCAF has delighted crowds for well over 35 years.

The gallery has three aircraft on display. Here we see a Tudor and a T-33 in Snowbirds colours. Samuel and Matthew play in a mockup of a Tudor cockpit.

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Meanwhile, Jonathan and Samuel curl up in the reproduction Officer's Mess and watch a video of the Snowbirds performing from a pilot's vantage point. He recognizes some of the chatter and formations from the diagram he was carefully studying just a few moments before.

The "Mess" is so reminiscent of the 1980s and my time as a child visiting such places with my parents. It's adorned with posters from the era when air shows were air shows and the aerial hardware shook your soul flying past with full afterburner. Also, Canada had some pretty awesome planes then. Heck - we *had* planes back then.

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Commonly referred to as prairie thistle, and not to be confused with the noxious Russian Thistle that choked the area during the depression, this field of purple flowers is quite pretty. We stopped to pick and press a few and talked about the time I found a pressed prairie thistle inside one of William Lyon MacKenzie King's day books at the Library and Archives of Canada in Ottawa. He had picked it during the Royal Tour of 1939 and placed it between two pages for the month of May and evidently either forgot about it or let it be. I took a photo, that has since been archived at home, and put it back for someone else to find.

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No, it's not snow...it's salt. But not any salt - it's sodium sulfate, also known as sulfate of soda. It's in slews and dried up ponds all over this part of southern Saskatchewan, but it's highly concentrated in and around Chaplin Lake, so much so that there is a surface mining operation. Sodium sulfate, or Na2SO4, levels in the lake are six times more concentrated than the salt in the ocean and twice as much as the Dead Sea. Nothing lives in the lake - except for these brine shrimp - and they are the base food of an incredible bird habitat here. Saskatchewan shore birds like the Piping Plover - who'd have thunk it?

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Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals Inc. operates the sodium sulfate mine at Chaplin. To use their own terminology, they 'harvest' more than 650,000 tones of the stuff each year and own a fleet of nearly 150 rail cars to move it. Sodium sulfate is used commonly in detergents and paper manufacturing.

This second picture shows Lake Champlin in the distance - way out there are where the birds and wildlife are.

The big Nikon reveals details about the stream and the strata of Na2SO4 that aren't as clear in the iPhone photo.

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There are some thirty species of shore bird that live here - many endangered. Piping Plovers are something normally associated with ocean shorelines, but there are nearly 300 of them here. The American Avocet and its unusual long bill do well here. The avocets that live on Lake Chaplin have red necks and collars as a result of the shrimp they eat. The other bird pictured here is a very angry Marbled Godwit, who also has an unusually long bill. Unfortunately, none of these photos are mine, but they're better than the taxidermied examples in the interpretive centre.

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Veteran's park in Medicine Hat, Alberta has three things: a Sherman Tank from the Second World War, a pair of ex-CPR EMD FP7A locomotives, and a police car waiting at the intersection of Maple Ave SE and 1 St SE who pulls me over for making a U-turn at a controlled intersection. I was trying to find parking and a place to turn - failing both, I did the U-turn. There wasn't a "No U-Turn sign" but it is the law here. As we come out of the turn, I can see the police officer light up the LED lights where the bubblegum used to be to pass through the intersection to pursue my little VW Golf and turns them back off again when he's cleared through traffic.

We both ride along the subway under the tracks to the other side where it's safer to pull me over - he'd be standing in traffic in the subway as there's no shoulder. As soon as we're past the bridge, the lights go on once more. I pull over on the westbound shoulder of 1 St. SE just before 2 Ave, adjacent to the park we're trying to go to. I ask the kids to be quiet, grab the license and registration, roll down the windows, and wait.

The officer takes my particulars and asks what we're doing in Medicine Hat and where we're going. I explain that I'm just trying to find parking to go right there. He points out that there's an on-street parking spot on the side of the road just around the corner at which he stopped me and I get a quick lesson on controlled intersections in Alberta. No ticket. We turn the corner - literally - and pull into the parking spot before the police officer even heads off in his car.

We take a quick look at a caboose that's still in service on the adjacent tracks, the locomotives, and shoot a picture of the name of the company cast into the engine's trucks. They were made by Dofasco of Hamilton, Ontario. Guess we're not the only Ontarian things at Veteran's Park that seem briefly out of place.

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The South Alberta Light Horse presented this Sherman Tank to the city of Medicine Hat fifty years ago. On balance, it's held up pretty well - better than the locomotives that are next to it, anyway. The low-angled light of the morning casts shadows across minute differences in relief, and I notice the manufacturer's imprint on the rubber tires on which the treads roll. Didn't know B.F. Goodrich made tank parts, but it makes sense given the number of industries that re-tooled for wartime production.

We have a quick look at the bridge over the South Saskatchewan River before hitting the road.

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As we head west toward Brooks, Alberta, we catch up to a local wayfreight that left Medicine Hat about the time we got pulled over. The relatively short train is racing along at almost 80 miles per hour and it's a while before we overtake it enough to pull over and set up for a photo. We get out of the car near a siding and cross over the tracks together to get the sun at a favourable angle. While we wait, a couple with a boat in tow has also stopped here - but they're adjusting the load their truck is pulling.

In less than two minutes, CPR GE ES44AC Nos. 8899 and 8715 tear past the block lights protecting the siding with horn blaring for the level crossing we're standing at. The kids wave to the engineer and he slides open his window to extend a wave in return.

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The Atlas Coal Mine site in East Coulee, Alberta is considered to be Canada's most complete historic coal mine and is home to the country's last standing wooden coal tipple. The Atlas Mining Company actually had four mines in this area and the Museum here is trying to access the fourth one that extends for several kilometers into the hillside of the Drumheller Valley. The coal here is different than that found in Cape Breton - it's sub-bituminous and used mainly for home heating, cooking, and electrical generation. These mines were served by both the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways and they also availed themselves of this resource to power their steam locomotives.

As we approach the wooden tipple, Matthew explores the various tracks around the site. Some are the standard-gauge of 4' 8 1/2", others use the old standard-gauge ties but are spaced closer to the narrow gauge of the mining trains. He's still looking for stuff to collect, but aside from the discarded and disused mining equipment, there's nothing to find here, so he enjoys hopping from tie to tie along the tracks.

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There are a lot of remnants of an active mining and railroading operation here...one just has to know where to look. Most people just pass by without noticing as a lot of what is here looks like piles of rusty junk. To be fair, it really is. Preservation of steel artifacts out of doors is non stop battle against rust...and as Greg McDonnell once said, "rust never sleeps".

The derail sign, painted on an octagonal-sided rectangle shape usually reserved for snowplow blade indicators, would once have alerted crews to the location of a derail on the siding. This device is meant to derail a runaway string or freight cars to prevent their rolling onto the main line.

This last piece of machinery looks vicious. It's called a "Joy loader" - named for the company that built it. The circles in the foreground cause those two nasty looking steel claws to grab-and-scoop coal onto the conveyor like a scorpion on steroids. Not the sort of thing you'd want to be caught in.

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You load 16 tons, and what do you get? Dirty. Really, really dirty. Also older and indebted, but mostly really filthy dirty. There are several interactive spots around the old coal mine for kids. One is a tunnel about the size that they would have used here to show how constrained things were and how dark it was. Matthew and Samuel crawl inside, hesitantly to check it out. There's still coal bits everywhere on the ground and despite the fact that the tunnel has been swept out and the boys are neither shoveling coal nor breathing in coal dust, they're still dirty. That's okay, though - they'll only get dustier and dirtier as the day goes on.

We visit the wash house next. It has the same hook-and-chain system to lift up a miner's street clothes and personal effects up high and out of the way just like the miner's museum in Cape Breton the kids have been to. The difference here is that they still have the shower room. People must have been shorter all around 100 years ago. The french word, "coincée" comes to mind as the best description of how small and tight these spaces are.

One building over and there are a whole bunch of large tools for use on the railroad and heavy machinery. There are bolts fixed into the table and the different sized wrenches and sockets can thread the various nuts up or down. After trying a couple of times, Matthew holds up a really large wrench for the camera.

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There is a large collection of miner's lamps and lanterns from all over Canada and the United States in the next building. The boys weren't anywhere near as interested in them as I was. This one was the main type used here and the battery pack system was what caught my eye, followed by the inscriptions on the packs themselves. Edison was once a partner in name and financially with the General Electric Company until mergers and name changes cut him out. Also, there's stories about how his experiments with electricity as a means of killing humans and animals brought about this change, but I'm not certain of its veracity. Anyway, these packs are still really interesting.

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Jonathan doesn't want to try on the clothes or hats, but the other two do. Samuel tries on a fedora and asks to see the picture right away. There's no mirror here. Matthew does the same with a miner's cap. Next to all the caps is this messy melted rock called a clinker - the bane of anyone who heats with coal. It's an amalgam of impurities fused together in a big hot wad that's too large to push through the grates and too hot to pull out. Clinkers foul up the fire in a home stove as much as a steam locomotive and ruined the day of anyone who had to deal with them - especially ones this large.

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It's hot here today, as one would expect. There's a heat warning issued for the region by Environment Canada as well. But compared to the circumstances under which they'd put out a heat warning in Ontario, this feels absolutely grand! It's hot - make no mistake - and any heat value over 30 degrees Celsius requires paying attention. But this is a dry heat - no humidity at all. It's really, really dry and feels really really nice. All the same, hats, water, and factor thirty are the order of the day - as well as some shade from time to time and some ice cream. We're doing well with the sun also - no burns on anyone - not even me.

After a cold treat and a code yellow, we drive over to the far side of the site, pretty much to where we had walked already and then another 500 meters. I want to show the kids the wooden bridge we could see from the coal tipple and before taking photos, Jonathan also hops out of the car and finds these things. Dozens of piles of stone along the path with a single stick out the top. Some of the sticks have streamers, some don't. But each little pile is adorned with the most unusual or garish items and artifacts. Clearly, this path means something to someone, but given how weird it all is, we decide not to follow it to the end. Put it this way: if we'd stumbled across this on a South Pacific island, I'd be worried about cannibals - it's that weird and out of place. So we take only pictures and leave only footprints.

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This bridge was built in 1936 and is one of - if not the last - remaining examples of a wooden Howe Truss-style bridge anywhere in Canada. The really interesting thing about it is that it was a joint venture of both the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific and built at a cost of $90,992 at the height of the Great Depression. The bridge continued to serve the railways until the Atlas No. 4 Mine closed in 1979 and then carried vehicle traffic for another decade. Now a National Historic Site of Canada, it sits disused, though the dryness of the region helps to ensure it won't rot quickly and should last a good while longer.

Both railways wanted to abandon it in favour of building their own - mostly so they wouldn't have to share anymore. The government declined as they didn't want another crossing in this narrow part of the valley. A series of petitions were put forth by CN and CP but the federal and provincial government remained steadfast and told the railways to go pound sand. If they wanted coal hauled out of the Drumheller Valley, they'd have to share the bridge...and they actually did.

The west side of the valley has a slightly different profile than the eastern slope...mostly because of wind, rain, and the angle of the sun. This spot adjacent to the bridge gives a good view of the different strata that make up the land below the grass way up top. Matthew keeps wondering how to go back in time..."how do we visit history?", he asks. This is one way...each fine layer represents a millennia or so of time. From the grass on top to the lowest strata we can find is the stories of millions of years of time and space within Southern Alberta. Don't forget, there are dinosaurs buried within...and below them, oil and coal from the remnants of even earlier prolific eras of life on Earth.

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At the hotel in Medicine Hat, Alberta the night before, I was talking with the lifeguard on duty while the kids played on the waterslide. He had lived in the Drumheller area and before that, Southern Ontario, and suggested that we take a right-hand turn toward East Coulee instead of going straight to the Tyrell Museum. That's how we ended up at the Atlas mine and it's also the reason we've stopped here: the Hoodoos.

One of the signs on site contains the following description:

"The word 'Hoodoo' originates from the Hausa language of West Africa, meaning, 'to arouse resentment, produce retribution.' Hoodoo was a distinct magic practice introduced to North America in the 18th Century, although different in nature than the more familiar voodoo. Aboriginal peoples used, 'hoodoo' to refer to evil, supernatural forces. Some believed the hoodoos were giants turned to stone by the Great Spirit due to their evil deeds."

One can certainly see the similarity of a figure frozen in stone when looking at a hoodoo. These tall, thin spires of sedimentary rock carved out of the valley walls were created by forces that are equal parts super and natural: wind, water, temperature, and time. The powerful processes that sculpt these formations is referred to as, "frost wedging".

As the U.S. National Park Service explains with regard to similar formations in Utah, "[during] the winter, melting snow, in the form of water, seeps into the cracks and freezes at night. When water freezes it expands by almost 10 percent, bit by bit prying open cracks, making them ever wider, in the same way a pothole forms in a paved road."

The creation and destruction of these shapes is cyclical and repeats many times over thousands of years. An intact plateau edge is gradually broken down into a rock formation known as a "fin" - which is a pointed outcrop. We can see some of these around the area.

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The fin then erodes even more to form large gaps and window-like arches. As weathering forces continue to wear away at the sedimentary rock, we are left with the wonky standalone columns we know as hoodoos. Over time, the hoodoos themselves are worn away and disappear at the same time as newer ones are created elsewhere in the valley.

These particular hoodoos are somewhat protected in that they're surrounded by metal stairs and low-profile wire fencing. The elements will eventually wear away these marvels of nature, but at least the natural erosion process won't be sped-up by human contact.

Further up the hill, where the stairs end, everything is fair game to touch and climb. Samuel makes it to the top of the staircase first and before I know it, he's halfway up the hillside. In fact, he's so far that I have to shout his name to get him to wait up for the rest of us. There are a lot of people here - so many that both an ice cream truck and a street meat vendor have taken up strategic positions in the parking lot below - and they're doing a booming business for a seemingly remote location.

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The telephoto lens on the camera gets me closer to Samuel than my feet can take me. He's really good at climbing! I'm convinced that if I hadn't have called at him to stop and wait, he'd easily have made it to the top on his own long before I could even get halfway. Despite how sandy and unstable the hillside looks, it's surprisingly firm and rigid. There's a soft layer of dust on top that rubs off onto whatever it comes into contact with, but the path he picked is by no means unsafe. If anything, it's easier for him because he's small.

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Part of the way up the hillside, the path runs through a narrow channel or trench. It's literally one-foot-in-front-of-the-other in order for someone my size to navigate the passage. Matthew has the exact opposite problem - he hasn't enough height or mass on his little body to race up as fast as his older brothers. He and I bring up the rear and catch up to the other boys on the mesa halfway up.

The layers of sediment and time are easy to see right here. Seams of coal run between other layers of compacted earth. Matthew is climbing forward in time as he makes his way up the hill.

When we get to the mesa, Matthew runs ahead to join his brothers while Samuel has to climb down from his high vantage point.

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Jonathan made it up to the mesa second, taking his time to look at things along the way. He's the only one who asks for a picture of himself up here, as well as being captured candidly during the climb. He looks to me like one of the explorers from the Palliser Expedition that surveyed the lands of Southern Alberta between 1857-1860. His pose fits also, because it's quite likely how Captain John Palliser may have taken in the tableau of the valley as the examined the geography, climate, soil, flora, and fauna for the purposes of settlement and transportation.

The dark layer crossing the top third of this picture of strata isn't coal - it's the iridium-rich layer that marks the end of the Cretaceous Period, the last period of the Mesozoic Era, and the beginning of the Paleogene Period, the first period of the Cenozoic Era. Known as the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary, (and for many years before, referred to as the Cretaceous–Tertiary (K–T) boundary), this dark scar across the layers of time shows precisely where the age of dinosaurs ended about 65-million years ago. In the geologic record, the K–Pg event is marked by a thin layer of sediment which can be found throughout the world in marine and terrestrial rocks. This boundary clay shows high levels of the metal iridium, which is rare in the Earth's crust but abundant in asteroids, such as the 180 kilometer-wide one that is thought to have created the Chicxulub crater in Mexico.

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One more stop before going to the Royal Tyrell Museum - the former Star Mine Suspension Bridge across the Red Deer River in Rosedale, Alberta. The supports for this bridge supported an aerial cable car that transported both men and coal across the river from 1919 to 1930 when it was upgraded to a swinging suspension bridge similar to this one. Ore transportation was replaced by a full-deck railway bridge a kilometer and a half upstream. A landslide on the far side of the river buried the mine workings in 1957 and it was subsequently closed. The province rebuilt the bridge a year later and maintains it to this day as a memorial to the once abundant mining industry in the river valley around Drumheller.

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Of all the things to survive the ravages of time at the former Star Mine site is this pole that has dangly wires hanging from the top spar. It's called a telltale and if you look really carefully in the black and white photo, you can see the telltale standing up and curving to the right against the profile of the white building. I wonder if the landslide caused the cement base that holds it up to list to one side like this?

Telltales were important safety devices on the railways during the age of steam and before the invention of the Westinghouse Air Brake. Brakemen and carmen would walk along the running board on the top of each car and manually apply the brakes by way of a brakewheel. Telltales were placed along the tracks overhanging the freight cars when a train would approach a tall solid structure and provide advance notice to the worker that if they didn't duck or climb down, they would surely be struck or crushed by the object ahead. This is where the term, "a telltale warning" comes from. Of course, if one ignored the warning and survived colliding with a solid beam of something or other, they'd certainly have a tale to tell.

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Drumheller actually had rail passenger service as late as 1981 - the end of the line for the passenger train here came about as a result of the massive cuts to VIA Rail by then-Transport Minister Jean-Luc Pépin and the government of Trudeau the elder. The line itself was removed only three years ago and CN has steadfastly refused to allow the town to purchase the corridor for use as a trail - or anything else for that matter. The old right-of-way is protected at each street crossing by large CN Police placards, though I cannot imagine the railway police patrolling a town that no longer has any rail services. The old CN Express container covered in overgrowth behind where the station used to be caught my eye from the road. We stopped at a nearby restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat before heading on to the dinosaur museum and I took the opportunity to photograph the French side of the federally-mandated bilingual signage on the container before pressing on.

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It's apparently not pronounced "TIE-rel" but instead, "TIH-rel" - learn something new everyday. While waiting in line to gain admission, Jonathan notices on the televised signage that shows equal parts admission fees and equal parts advertisements for the place we're at that military members and veterans get in for free. Keen eye!

I should say that I'm terribly pleased that the Royal Tyrrell Museum didn't cost anything out of pocket - and that's only because of the way the day played out. The museum is brilliant - no question. But, in my opinion, it's really not a place for kids because it's an old-style museum with placards and displays. The interactive stuff they did have is really geared for older children and the boys were getting frustrated with not only one another overwhelming touch-screen technology with too many fingers, but also random adults wandering up and touching the screens when they could plainly see it wasn't their turn.

Then there's the people - SO MANY PEOPLE! Our Tyrrell experience was more one of crowd control than enjoyment of the exhibits. To be perfectly honest, the boys would rather have climbed the walls of the Red Deer River Valley back at the Hoodoos two or three times over than coming here - and if I could wind back time, we'd have gone down to the parking lot to purchase some street meat and an ice cream and then climbed back to the top ... or at least as far up as we could safely go. The Royal Tyrell Museum is probably best enjoyed alone, with friends who share similar interests, as a couple, or with much, much older kids that are completely bonkers for dinosaurs.

However, we were able to snap some photos of the things the boys pointed out or for which they wanted a picture. These are reproduced here along with descriptions of each from the Royal Tyrrell Museum's website.

First in this trio of photos is Rhamphorhynchus muensteri (RAM-for-eng-kuss MUN-ster-eye). This pterosaur (flying reptile) lived 152-145 million years ago, during the Late Jurassic. It is an exceptional find because of the preserved stomach contents. The jumbled bones in the chest and abdomen are interpreted to be the well-digested remains of its last meal, possibly from a shark and a tetrapod (a four-legged animal). The diamond-shaped tail vane indicates this animal was not fully mature. A fully grown Rhamphorhynchus had a triangular-shaped tail vane.

Next is a stunning and complete specimen of a juvenille Gorgosaurus - complete right down to the last bone in the skeleton! This fossil is referred to as an, "articulated specimen", which means all the bones are in the same place they were when the animal was alive. This particular Gorgosaurus - which is a Tyrannosaur - was discovered in 1991 in southern Alberta's Dinosaur Provincial Park. It is in a position called the "classic death pose": a rounded position in which the spine arches backwards towards the tail. Carnivorous dinosaurs are often found fossilized in this position, though there is some speculation about why this happens. Some paleontologists think its tendons shrinking and pulling the animals head back as the carcass dries out, while others are now thinking it may be caused as the animal is in its final "death throes".

Last were have the shell of a squid-like marine animal called an ammonite and this fossil, in particular, was a major find because of its size, near-perfect preservation, and appearance. The iridescent specimen measures 62 centimeters in diameter and has a particularly lustrous appearance, with quite dazzling greens, reds, and yellows. Ammonite fossils found in southern Alberta have gone through a unique form of preservation. Tectonic pressure, heat, and mineralization over millions of years compress them into colourful, iridescent material used to create jewellery. Ammonites preserved in this manner are both fossils and gemstones, and although fossils are protected under provincial legislature, permission is granted by the Alberta Government to mine the gemstone. Maybe there are more like this to find? After all, the museum here does say that no matter where you go in Alberta, if you dig deep enough, you'll eventually find fossils!

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First in this trio of photos is a posed skeleton of an Albertosaurus (al-BURR-toe-SOR-us) who has just preyed upon and caught a Centrosaurus (SEN-tro-SAW-russ). If you look carefully, you can see that the image on the wall is a mural of the skeleton scene in the foreground. From the Tyrrell website: "Albertosaurus was the top predator of its time, and was a close relative of Tyrannosaurus rex, who lived a few million years later. The first Albertosaurus was discovered by Joseph B. Tyrrell, a young geologist who was searching for coal seams in the Red Deer River valley in 1884. It is now the most common of the large carnivores found in Alberta. It's hard to believe anything dared tread in the same neighbourhood as these giants, but the lush, semi-tropical Cretaceous ecosystem teemed with diversity."

Next, Jonathan stands with the "King of the Tyrant Lizards" - a full-grown specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex. Towering in all its majesty, this massive carnivore is the largest known theropod ("Beast Foot") found in North America. There are so many books and websites about this incredible animal that it's not worth repeating here. Moreover, new information about Tyrannosaurs is being uncovered and published all the time and with that comes different opinions, theories, and points of view. Far from the lumbering, slow, stupid creature T-Rex was once thought to be, paleontologists now believe that they were very agile, capable, and masterful predators due to the creature's exceptionally large brain case, olfactory system, and well-developed eyesight. The one thing that is worth mentioning here has more to do with the photo itself than the fossilized skeleton - the people. Only seconds before, Jonathan stood alone with T-Rex and it was the best chance to get a clear shot. Then, no fewer than 8 people stepped into frame in the foreground, behind the skeleton, and up on the balcony.

Last, and jumping forward in time several tens of millions of years, is the skeleton of a Woolly Mammoth. Measuring three meters tall at the shoulder and weighing five to eight tons, the woolly mammoth appeared in Europe and Asia around 250,000 years ago and moved east over the Bering Land Bridge into North America 100,000 years ago. Some debate remains about what led to their extinction, but most people believe it was climate change. This exhibit is also posed - there are several sabre-toothed cats about to pounce on the Mammoth.